Lightning coach Guy Boucher: Steven Stamkos should not always be the first option
Here's quite a stat for you: Tampa Bay Lightning star center Steven Stamkos hasn't scored a power play goal since Nov. 18 against the Flyers. That is nine games, which helps explain his six-game drought without any goals at all.
Stamkos is facing more pressure than ever from opposing defenses. In fact, coach Guy Boucher likes to talk about the game against the Capitals on Nov. 26 in which Washington, leading 5-0 in the third period, sent two players to cover Stamkos on a five-on-three.
"We've been scoring with other options," Boucher said of his squad which is 7-for-38 on the power play in that stretch. "The problem is we've been going to Stamkos for nothing."
In other words, Tampa Bay has been trying to force passes to Stamkos for his one-timer. Problem is, that one-timer isn't there as much. As Boucher said, "Teams aren't stupid." They're going to catch on sooner or later and pressure Stamkos.
Said Boucher: "We've got to focus more on more than Stamkos."
Stamkos, still stuck on 21 goals, could help himself, too, by getting to the net. Remember how we all praised the kid for scoring early goals from in front of the net, the so-called dirty areas? Those goals kind of dried up as the season went along.
Other stuff from before the game: Marc-Antoine Pouliot didn't want to get into too many details, but the forward, called up Friday from AHL Norfolk because left wing Mattias Ritola's ear disease flared up, said he visited Chile for two days last month to be with a close friend who he identified only as Jenessa, who needed surgery for injuries caused by a rock slide. Pouliot said Jenessa was on a year-long trip to Chile and was hurt while transferring between busses in a small town. Pouliot left the Admirals to lend some support. "Hockey is important for me, but there are other things more important than this," he said. "She's obviously more important than hockey. That's why I went there." Pouliot said Jenessa is back in Canada and is expected to make a full recovery. ... Dan Ellis will get the start in net. ... Ritola will not play because of the flare up of his Meniere's disease, which causes dizziness and ringing in his right ear. General manager Steve Yzerman's plane into Edmonton was delayed in Minneapolis because of a mechanical problem, and had not yet met with Ritola by Friday afternoon. ... Wing Linus Omark will play his first game for the Oilers tonight. Omark is best friends with Lightning left wing Johan Harju. Both are from the Swedish town of Overtornea with a population of about 2,000. Harju said they have known each other since they were 6. They played together in juniors and professionally in Sweden and Russia. In fact, Omark said, this is the first year they have not played on the same team. Said Harju: "Of course it's going to be fun, but tonight I'm not his friend on the ice. We both want to win, so we're not going to be friends out there." ... Expect the Lightning to really press the Oilers, especially their defensemen who have a tendency to cough up the puck. Tampa Bay really wants this game because Saturday's game in Vancouver will be against a rested team that is playing extremely well. In other words, get two points tonight when you can. ... Speaking of Harju, the biggest difference Boucher said he sees in his game from his first call up is "he's not as nervous."